Friday, September 4, 2015

September Song

Sunflower on black
The Summer of 2015 is almost gone, just another 15 days or so until the Fall Equinox and I feel as if I've lost the whole season. For most of the Summer, I've been off my feet, reclining in my Barcalounger, hoping against hope to keep all my toes intact. Alas, it was not to be, and eventually I agreed to the inevitable and had the middle toe of my left foot amputated.  That seems to have stopped the infection that was threatening to take my whole foot, and so, it is with some measure of relief that I no longer have a walking cast on my foot and am able to take showers again without putting my foot and ankle in a plastic sleeve.

Early in the season, I found three packets of sunflower seeds from years gone by (many years gone by), and in a spirit of hope I planted the seeds in my new flower bed--the one where I also planted some twelve day lilies and now four bearded iris plants. The seeds were so old, I had no real hope of them germinating, but lo, ten did.  They have just now begun to bloom, even though the stalks tower over me and have for several weeks.  As of this morning, ten stalks have grown up from the three packets of seeds, and four are now in full bloom, with color showing on a fifth.  I have no doubt that the remaining five will also burst forth into their glory, if the frost holds off long enough.

Sunflowers, like dandelions, always seem so cheerful to me.  Perhaps it's just that I associate that bright yellow with happiness.  The photo above, showing the first flower to bloom, is deliberately placed on a black background as it represents to me the ultimate triumph over the despair I have felt so strongly this Summer.  This, too, shall pass, as we're told, and I will regain my strength and will to live.


The past few days I've been working on my library, clearing out the boxes from the closet and putting up shelves where I could empty those boxes.  This has also allowed me to continue on with my project of organizing the library, as it is now easier to get to all those books that were still packed away.  I'm also going through boxes of old papers and throwing a lot of stuff away.  Do I really need checking statements from 1998, for instance, especially since I no longer bank with that institution? As the floor clears, my mood rises, and the next step will be cleaning off the horizontal surfaces so that I actually have some work space and clear horizons.  I know this will help improve my attitude, and also make the papers I do keep easier to find if/when needed.

Sunflower on blue
So while the skies outside are grey (from rain clouds finally, instead of the smoke we've had for the last month), I choose to see the sky as blue.  The rain is much needed, and should help to dampen the fires that surround us, as well as washing the smoke from the sky.  For weeks we have not been able to see the mountains across the valley, but now the mountains are back, albeit a bit shrouded with the clouds.  I can deal with clouds.

I haven't written much, practically nothing, all summer long.  I'm down to one county left on my ongoing Glory of the West blog, and that has had me a bit depressed as well, for this is a project that I've dreamt of for thirty-five years.  What do I do when it's finished?  Well, I'm sure something new will come along to engage me.  And Lord knows there's plenty to keep me busy just in keeping up this house.

I wouldn't mind having some company though, if you feel like a trip to Montana's beautiful northwestern corner.  There's plenty of room for you, and it will give me an incentive to cook.
Y'all come!

Monday, July 13, 2015

To the Peak of Sex and Beyond

The Coeur d'Alene Range of the Bitterroot Mountains
View to the West and South from the Sex Peak Lookout
Five foot by two foot Panorama

Sunday morning, Kevin offered me the chance of a lifetime.  He wanted to go to Sex Peak and take me with him.  How could I say no?  Little did I know that there is an actual mountain top in the Coeur d'Alene range named "Sex Peak."  Nor did I know that there was a US Forest Service lookout tower on said peak.  Normally, when Kevin wants to go to a mountain top, it's because he wants to play Ham Radio operator, so I took my Kindle, my camera, and my coffee mug in the truck, and was ready to go.  Kevin brought our diabetic MinPin Harley along for the ride.  We suspect that Harley's healthy siblings treat him poorly when we leave all the dogs alone. Harley is going blind from his diabetic induced cataracts, and tends to bump into furniture, walls, other dogs, etc, which the others do not appreciate.

On the way, we stopped by the home of the owner of the Llano Theatre, the wonderful movie house here in Plains, which Kevin and I visit almost every week.  I was doing some printing for the theater, but was having trouble getting my various software programs to work.  This had caused me no end of frustration both Saturday and Sunday morning, and my blood pressure was rising accordingly.  Long story short, I really needed a day away from the computer.

After dropping off my work, and stopping at the dump to drop off the week's garbage, we continued west on Highway 200 to Thompson Falls.  It was at this point I learned that Kevin really didn't know exactly where Sex Peak is.  Well, that's what modern technology is all about, right?  Just try to ask your vehicle's navigation system to get you to Sex Peak.  I dare you.  That's right, it didn't work for us, either.  Well, our smart phones have internet capability.  Just look it up on line.  What???  I'm not getting a 4G signal?  I was beginning to think that modern technology and I just were not getting along.  Kevin, using his own phone, was able to find a link to show driving directions, but that link refused to open.  When in doubt, ask someone human, preferably face to face.

Having learned that we needed to continue west from Thompson Falls, our new objective was the road that follows Big Beaver Creek.  I'm not making this up.  If you want to get to Sex Peak, you have to go up Big Beaver Creek.  Quite a way up Big Beaver Creek, as it turns out.  Eventually you will reach a junction where Forest Service Road 2222 takes off to the right, and you'll see a sign telling you that the lookout is 12 miles ahead.  Of course, if you don't turn at this junction, you'll see a sign saying that the lookout is 14 miles ahead.  Apparently, once you're way up Big Beaver Creek, all roads lead to Sex Peak.

You didn't think the sign would actually say Sex Peak, did you?
How long do you think that sign would last?

The Lookout is no longer being used by the Forest Service as a fire watch tower, but is available for rental at a rate of $35 a night.  Supposedly it can sleep four people, but they'd have to be awfully friendly, it seems to me.  In any event, if people can rent the tower, it makes sense to me that you should be able to drive your soccer mom van all the way up to the summit.  Road 2222 was not, however, the smoothest road I've ever been on.  Not the worst, either, not even the worst we followed on this trip, but I'll get to that in a minute or two.  We'd been driving quite some time when we came upon the sign shown above.  Oh goody, that meant we had covered eight miles of bad road and had only four more to go.  It's hard for me to imagine most families driving their car up this road.  I'm not sure why, as growing up we drove our cars up mountain roads much worse than this.  But folks today are pretty soft, seems to me.

Eventually, we passed a gate and made the final climb to the lookout.  I've been to several lookouts over the years, and this was by far the easiest to reach by motor vehicle.  There is an outhouse next to the parking area, something I'm not used to seeing at other lookouts, but there is no water any where nearby (remember, we left Big Beaver Creek twelve miles back), so you have to bring all the water you feel you're going to need if you plan on staying overnight.  But the view!  Just look at that panorama at the head of the page.  I stood on the lookout's balcony and took nine individual shots that were merged into that panorama.  Of course, that is the point of a lookout--you're there to watch for any fire that might get started in the forest below.  And if you're into building cairns, there's a lot of rock here to use.  Other ways to spend your time, according to the rental website, include star gazing, wildlife viewing, and even mountain biking.  

Just down the road a ways, we found quite a huckleberry patch, and stopped long enough to pick berries both for immediate eating, and for some baking I'll do later today (or maybe tomorrow).   I have to say that I really don't recommend trying to pick huckleberries when you're wearing a walking cast boot designed to keep your foot and ankle immobile.  I speak from experience.

On the way back down the mountain, we decided to go out the back way (remember the 14 mile sign back on Big Beaver Road?).  This road was much smoother than the way we ascended the mountain, and much more suitable for regular cars.  So much smoother, that it's probably shorter in time even though longer in distance.  At the bottom of the grade we faced a decision:  10 miles to Highway 200 and home, or 6 miles to the State Line.  Well, that was easy.  Head west into Idaho.

One thing we learned on this trip is that the Forest Service isn't marking their roads as well as they used to.  Certainly not as well as they should when intrepid explorers set out to see the sights but have no maps along.  We passed a sign indicating Mile 11 (one mile from where we turned west), and then we passed a fork in the road, taking what appeared to be the better maintained choice, since neither road was marked with any kind of sign.  Well, the right fork did say the road was not maintained for cars or trailers, but we took the left fork, which soon led us to a bridge across, what else, Beaver Creek.

I hope you weren't looking for water in Beaver Creek

Shortly after crossing the bridge, we saw another milepost, 1.  What do you mean, 1?  Shouldn't that be 12?  Then came another milepost, 2.  Then 3, then 4, then a locked gate.  We're not getting to Idaho following this road.  Even if we were able to open the locked gate (and Kevin does have keys to do that in his work with the Ambulance and Fire crews), the road ahead was blocked by a good stand of trees, and we didn't have a chain saw with us.

Turn the truck around, head back toward the bridge, then the fork, and try the "not maintained" road instead.  Boy were they right. This road was barely maintained for a 4x4 pickup.  It climbed pretty steadily through thick brush until after five miles we leveled off and saw a sign stating "State Line."  No "Welcome to Idaho," or "Idaho is Just Too Great to Litter," or even "Pacific Time Zone."  Just "State Line."  Looking behind us, there was a sign saying that it was now 16 miles to Highway 200, but nothing telling us where the road ahead would lead us, or how many miles it would take to find out.

The road downhill was wide and relatively smooth, nothing like the Montana side, and we were doing quite well until we came to a place where the road had washed out.  I wondered if our four-wheel drive would get us over the impasse, but before he tried it, Kevin wisely got out of the cab to reconnoitre.  Having looked the situation over carefully, he decided we could risk the attempt, and while I held my breath (and the truck started sliding toward the abyss), he gunned it up and over and in no time at all we were back on good road. I know objectively it took no time, but as I was on the downhill side/slide, I was holding my breath and it felt as if it took forever.  Later Kevin asked if I had taken any pictures of the slide, but no, as I said, I was holding my breath, not my camera.

Further down the road we stopped at a small stream to get water for Harley.  I'm not happy with any of the photos I took of the stream, but I'm sharing this one anyway.  And a bit further on we came upon a truck with five Forest Service personnel sitting and talking.  We asked if they knew about the slide, and they assured us that someone was coming up the mountain to remedy the situation.  They were a bit amazed that 1) we had driven over it, and 2) that we had no idea where we were or where we were going.  They assured us that we were on the road down the mountain, and we would end up at Elk Creek.  (Should I mention that in a lifetime of driving around western Montana and northern Idaho, I had never heard of Elk Creek?)  A couple of miles further along, we came to another junction, and took the right fork as it seemed better traveled and frankly, in better shape.  Five miles down that road, we reached the bottom of the canyon and, I presume, Elk Creek.  Passing a couple of four-wheelers and a camp site where someone had brought in a large camping trailer, we headed down stream, only to find that it was good we were in a Ford.  We had to ford the creek, twice.  The road became increasingly narrow, and finally dropped into the creek bed itself.  Nope, not going to go there.  Turning around, we found we were now blocking the way of the four-wheelers, who were anxious to get down into that creek bed.  Better them than us.  We stopped at the campsite and spoke with Willie Nelson (well, that's who he looked like) who told us that we needed to go back up the mountain and take the other fork.  Exactly 14.9 miles from his campsite, we would find the Murray-Pritchard Road, better known to us as the Thompson Pass Road.

Back up the mountain, this time taking the left fork, and along the way we passed another Forest Service truck, this time with Fire Suppression markings, a BLM Fire Suppression Truck, three more Forest Service trucks, and a bulldozer slowly making its way up the mountain to repair the slide we'd driven over.  We also drove through a large swath of burned out forest land before we started dropping precipitously off the mountain.  

Almost exactly 15 miles from Willie Nelson, we hit pavement and turned to the left toward Murray.  I've written about Murray before, and her most famous resident Maggie Hall, AKA Molly B Damn.  Murry is an old mining town roughly ten miles into Idaho when you cross Thompson Pass south of Thompson Falls.  A friend had told me that the Sprag Pole Inn served a good meal, so Kevin pulled off the road and we had a great dinner of broasted chicken, french fries, and tossed salad.  After dinner, we continued up and over Thompson Pass and headed home.  With Kevin's scanner, we were able to hear a report of a truck heading toward us and driving erratically, speeding, crossing the double yellow line, passing on blind curves.  Kevin got on the radio and asked what we should be looking for.  The officer replied with a description of the vehicle, and it shouldn't have been hard to find.  He described our truck with one exception.  The miscreant was driving a 2014 red Ford F350 diesel.  We were driving a 2012 red Ford F350 diesel.  I'm pleased to say that we drove all the way home without ever running into our near twin.

The Thompson Pass Road on the Montana Side
What most people think a road through the mountains should look like

It was a long day, at times frustrating, but never boring.  We were doing one of the things I love best--getting out, seeing the sights, exploring roads we've not traveled before.  I kept telling Kevin how much fun I was having, and I know my blood pressure dropped considerably being away from the computer.  We'll do it again, and I'll write it up again.  Only next time we'll have maps, a cooler and lunch along for the ride.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bad Toe--the Rest of the Story

So, for all you Paul Harvey fans out there, here is the rest of the story.  Back on Memorial Day weekend, when Roger Thompson​ and Rick Reynolds​ were visiting, Rick noticed that my left foot was terribly swollen.  He suggested I see my doctor about it.  I scheduled a full physical with my doc, Clancy Cone​, but Clancy couldn't tell what, exactly, was going on with my foot, so he referred me to my podiatrist, Flynn Sherick.  Now me, being of a mind to put things off until I can afford to pay for them, neglected setting an appointment with Dr. Sherick.  That is until Thursday night, when getting ready for bed I noticed that the middle toe on my left foot was bright red and the skin was peeling off it.  Since Kevin​ wanted to drive into Missoula on Friday anyway, I called Dr. Sherick's office, and when I described the situation, April said it sounded like an emergency and got me in to see Dr. Reed that morning.

One of the side effects of diabetes is that you can develop neuropathy, especially in the extremities, and you may not feel what is happening with your feet.  I certainly have no idea why my toe got in the shape it did--I know it didn't look that bad when Clancy saw it or he would have done something.  But, long story short, there is an infection in my toe that led Dr. Reed to clean the wound, i.e. cut off the tip of the toe and the peeling skin.  He told me I had two options:  1) stay off my feet, keeping the left foot dry except for daily cleansing of the wound and redressing it, and take massive amounts of antibiotics for 6 to 8 weeks; or 2) amputate the toe.  I chose 1.  With proper care and any luck at all, the toe will heal, the lost skin will grow back, and I can return to a more or less normal life.  Well, the new normal, which includes a complete foot inspection every day. EVERY DAY.

Dr. Reed also took x-rays of my foot and found 1) the bones aren't exactly where they're supposed to be in a normal foot, and 2) there are lines that may or may not be hairline fractures in some of the bones.  The misalignment of the bones may just be a genetic variation, but in any event, Dr. Reed felt that the matter called for an MRI to get a clearer picture of what is going on with my left foot.  (Sounds like a movie title to me.)  (And just why should the bones in my feet be normal--the rest of me certainly isn't.)  After cleaning and disinfecting the wounded toe, Dr. Reed put me in a walking cast to protect everything, including the possibly broken bones in my foot.

Dr. Reed's staff was very helpful and worked to get me an MRI appointment that very day so I wouldn't be driving back and forth to Missoula every couple of days.  Bless them all!  I was out of Dr. Reed's office by noon, but the MRI wasn't scheduled until 4 pm.  After lunch at the Montana Club, we headed to Costco to get my new prescriptions filled (they would need at least a half hour and standing around with that walking cast just wasn't cutting it), so we left Costco and headed to WalMart for some quick shopping, then to the Verizon store, where even though I knew exactly what I wanted, it still took 2 1/2 hours to move from my old iPhone4 to a brand new LG G4.  (And just like at Costco, we ended up leaving the Verizon store without our new purchases, because it was going to take another hour and a half just to move the photos and contacts from the old phone to the new one--not an easy task if you're going from Apple to Android, apparently.

We got to Advanced Imaging, the MRI place, about 15 minutes early, and they got me in very quickly.  There was one fellow in the machine at the time, and a woman in line ahead of me, but they took me to the back, took a blood sample, and put a needle in the back of my hand so they could insert dye into my veins for the MRI.  And then the real wait began.  I had not had the foresight to bring a book or my Kindle from home, but I took advantage of our stop at Costco to pick up a new book, Paris Match by Stuart Woods as I knew there would be some waiting time.  The assistant at Advanced Imaging showed me how to turn my arm chair into a recliner, and brought me a heated blanket, which was helpful as the place was air conditioned to near arctic temperatures.  I was told that I'd be waiting for about 45 minutes and then would be in the MRI machine for another 45 minutes, so I asked to speak with Kevin, and when he joined me, I suggested he head back to Costco and the Verizon Store to pick up our purchases, rather than sit in the lobby and wait while I was also sitting around waiting.  He agreed, and left.

Let me just say that I am thoroughly enjoying the Stuart Woods novel.  I read half the book while waiting.  Yes, half the book.  It was a long wait.  And in the end, a fruitless wait as the assistant returned to tell me that they had been having trouble with the machine all day, and it had finally given up the ghost while working on the man two in line in front of me.  The could get me into the machine at St. Pat's hospital around 11 p.m., or, they would put Kevin and me up in a motel overnight so that we wouldn't have to drive back on Saturday morning--assuming, that is, that they were able to get the machine fixed Saturday morning.  Kevin insists that Clark Fork Valley Hospital, just down the road from our house, has a brand new MRI, but for some reason, no one in Missoula--not Dr. Reed nor the folks at Advanced Imaging--was willing to consign me to the ministrations of our local folk.  Something about protocols.  Doesn't make sense to me that St Pat's would be OK, but Clark Fork Valley, which is owned by St Pat's, isn't.  But what do I know.  I'm just the patient.

We left Advanced Imaging at 6 p.m. (Remember, we got there at 3:45), and headed to Bamboo Chopstix for a fine dinner with Mike Henry and his mother.  After that we headed home, arriving around 9 p.m., roughly 12 1/2 hours after we left for Missoula.  And I'd been in that damn walking cast since before noon.  I was tired, cranky, and very upset.

Kevin took the cast off, cleaned and redressed the wounded toe, and we went to bed.  The doctor had given me a prescription for Oxycodone for pain, but I know how morphine affects me and I really want to avoid the narcotic if at all possible.  Instead, I took three Advil gel caps and a dose of Nyquil and headed upstairs to sleep by myself in the guest room.  And I did sleep.

Woke up this morning feeling much more chipper than when I went to bed--or in fact better than at any time yesterday, and now I'm waiting for my brand new LG G4 to ring and tell me that the machine is working and I need to come back into Missoula.  If I do go into Missoula today, I will take advantage of being there to participate, at least minimally in Pride activities and also run by the Father's Day Car Show at Grizzly Peak Home.  BUT, and this is the kicker:

For the next 6-8 weeks I am to stay off my feet as much as possible, and wear that damned walking boot when I have to be up.  Not sure how I'll feel after driving into Missoula with the boot on, so I may not make any of the extracurricular activities.  Also, at home, I will have to give up watering the orchard, the flower beds and the strawberries--turning those tasks over to Kevin.  I am not to get my foot wet, and I can't water the orchard with a plastic bag over the walking cast--not to mention doing it while "staying off my feet."  I am to stay away from my loom--at least until we know if any bones are broken, because the project I'm working on uses all ten treadles and each treadle raises four harnesses--a lot of weight, which means a lot of pressure on an injured foot.  I foresee getting a lot of reading done over the next 6-8 weeks.

And worst of all, I have to wear shoes at all times.  My West Virginia roots go too deep for me to be comfortable wearing shoes.  Those of you who know me well, know that I don't wear any clothing if at all possible, but I almost never wear shoes unless I'm out in public.  The doc says that has to change.  We'll see.  For now, I'll be sitting in my recliner, with my feet up, relaxing with the Kindle or a book in front of me.

Oh, and two incidental things I need to remember to tell Dr. Reed when I see him in 10 days.  I spent many years doing Scottish Country Dance.  I'm a life member of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, affiliated with the San Francisco Branch.  Scottish Dancing puts a lot of stress on your feet, and any hairline fractures could well have occurred back in the day.  Wouldn't surprise me at all.  Could even account for the bones not being in the "proper" place.  Also, last October, while in Phoenix, Kevin left me at the hotel while he went to make some last minute purchases before our drive home.  I took advantage of the internet to find a couple of geocaches within walking distance of the hotel, and the first one I tried for (and found, btw), involved climbing a rather steep, very rocky hillside.  I don't know what I did, focused on the goal, as it were, but when I got back down to street level and started walking back to the hotel on the sidewalk, my left foot screamed in agony and I seriously wondered if I'd be able to get back to our room.  The foot hurt off and on for days, but eventually the pain subsided.  I still have no idea what I did, but I suppose it's possible that I fractured a bone by stepping on a rock a little too heavily.  Who knows.

And that's the rest of the story.

Monday, June 1, 2015

In Pride

With Big Sky Pride coming up this month, it seems appropriate to me to repeat something I wrote eighteen years ago.  They say that stuff you put on the web is never completely lost, but just in case, I'm copying it here.  I wrote this for the November 1997 issue of Outspoken, which was Missoula's gay/lesbian newsletter and have edited it slightly to reflect the current situation.

Grandpa's Notes:

Many and many a year ago in a kingdom by the sea.... Oops, that's another story and another writer, but once upon a time doesn't quite fit either. Still, at a time before some of the people reading this were born, a group of men met every Tuesday evening in a private home under the name of Gay Males Together. When I came out in 1977, at the age of 27, it was because I read an ad in the Missoulian that suggested I call a phone number for information about that group and its activities. I don't know how long Gay Males Together had been meeting at that point. I remember moving to Missoula in 1975 and seeing the ads then, but too frightened of my own secrets, I spent two years gathering the courage to call that phone number. When at last I did call and learned the address of the meeting, I showed up at the door, full of fear and trembling at the possibilities that lay inside that apartment. What kind of monsters would I see when the door finally opened. Remember, this was before Ellen, before before Priscilla or To Wong Foo, before even Victor/Victoria and La Cage aux folles. Would I see sights that would push me even deeper into the closet than I already was?

You see, I had been having anonymous, public sex with men for 10 years at this point. From my first experience as a hitchhiker at 17, riding in a Firebird from Reno to Sacramento, through grad school at UC Berkeley where the athletic department graciously furnished a site for nude sun-bathing and gay sex (activities I willingly engaged in--and still do, should I add), I enjoyed the anonymous encounters with other men. I enjoyed watching other naked men playing with each other sexually, and I certainly enjoyed it when they played with me. BUT I WAS NOT GAY! I had a girlfriend--with whom I never exchanged anything more sexual than the occasional chaste kiss. I knew that as much fun as playing with men was, the right woman would come along and I would settle down into the American dream (or nightmare) of married life, home in the suburbs, two and a half kids, dog, station wagon, etc. etc. ad nauseam. So in 1969 when Louis Landerson, then a classmate in Senior level French courses and later a writer for Boston's Fag Rag, showed up one day in class wearing a button which read "Gay is Good!" I ran as fast as I could in the other direction. I don't think I ever spoke to Louis after that day, and today that is one of my great regrets. A few years later, in 1973, I was studying in one of Berkeley's many parks when I noticed a celebration taking place at a distance. While I watched, amazed, the celebrants moved toward me, led by two six foot tall white rabbits. When they were close enough for my near-sightedness to focus, I saw that they were carrying banners reading "Gay Pride!" and the white rabbits were men in rabbit costumes who had their genitals exposed for all to see. Again, instead of joining the celebration, or taking those "family jewels" in my hand--which I would do today--I closed my book (with its accusatory lavender binding) and left the park. Whatever those people were celebrating, it had nothing to do with me.

So four years later I found myself standing in front of a closed door in the lower Rattlesnake, waiting for the door to open and for those damned white rabbits to accost me. What I found instead was a group of men, mostly in their 20s and early 30s, who were no different than I. Of course, you knew that, didn't you. This group of men became my family. While I wouldn't use the word "sisters" to describe them, I would happily dance to Sister Sledge singing "We Are Family," a song which became the de-facto gay anthem in the early 80s. It was with this group of men that I helped rent and decorate the basement of the Palace--where the billiard parlor now sits--for the first gay dance held to anyone's recollection in Missoula. Should I mention that the name we put on the rental agreement was The River City Rafting and Cruise Association?

Sadly, our Tuesday evening host was facing increasing scrutiny into his private life, and his job was being threatened (he was an elementary school teacher), so we had to find a new place for our meetings. They were much too important to us to give up. Fortunately, one of our group was able to offer his home and the meetings went on. At the same time, I took on the task of answering the phone number that was advertised in the paper, the gay male hot-line! That phone rang in my home for almost five years in the late 70s and early 80s. Roughly one-third of the calls were legitimate calls for information about gay people and our activities. One-third were calls seeking sex, and one third were crank calls. A pretty good average considering the times. The routine was this: if someone called to ask about the Gay Males Together meetings, I would agree to meet them at the 4-Bs or some other public space, always asking them to identify themselves, and never giving any way for them to identify me. That way I could check them out safely, and meet with them in a public setting without jeopardizing either myself or the group. One day in 1979, a fellow called on Tuesday afternoon and gave his name. This was unusual, but even more unusual was that I recognized the name. He had been a student of mine when I was a substitute at Stevensville High School in 1975. Rather than stick to the routine, I figured I could trust him and gave him the address of the meeting. That evening, early on with only four of us present, the doorbell rang and we opened it to find six young men wanting to beat us up. We refused to fight with them (after all they were six to our four), so their ringleader--the fellow who had called--opened the screen door and punched our host. We called the police who, remarkably, did show up to take our statement, then we took Rob to the Student Health Service where he was admitted with a concussion. Sometime, if you're interested, ask me about the way the police and the city attorney's office handled the whole matter. The next week, while we waited anxiously for a repeat of the trouble, a group of women showed up at Gay Males Together armed with baseball bats, chains, knives, etc. to protect their boys.

I have always felt responsible for Rob's injury, but that attack was the catalyst which brought about Out in Montana. When the women and the men started talking about our mutual concerns and needs, we started meeting in earnest with the intent of building a state-wide gay rights organization that would also provide social outlets for gay men and lesbians across Montana. Remember that at this time there were no gay bars anywhere in Montana, and only a couple in Spokane. For the next year gay men and women from across western Montana met regularly and wrote By-Laws, Articles of Incorporation and a mission statement for Out In Montana. By design the organizational duties were to be equally shared by women and men. This was a concept almost unknown in those days. A group of five of us, three men and two women, travelled to Los Angeles for a meeting of grass-roots gay/lesbian organizations and there we found men's groups and women's groups, but no other groups that incorporated both men and women on an equal footing. I'll never forget OIM officer Ellen Sue Findley standing on a chair in comedienne Robin Tyler's West Hollywood apartment shouting "Gender parity means two men, two women, no more no less." She was responding to an organizational statement that groups attending this L.A. meeting were to have gender parity, which was defined as being at least two women out of a group of four. Under the rules of the meeting, all four could be female and the group would still be considered to have achieved "gender parity." Out In Montana was in the vanguard of men and women working together.

At the height of our organizational activity, Out In Montana had chapters in Missoula, Butte, Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls and Kalispell, held four board meetings each year at locations all across the state (well, actually, never east of Billings), published a newsletter for a mailing list of over 1,000, and had two main fund-raising events each year--Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends with attendance figures usually in excess of 400.

I could speculate on what went wrong and why Out In Montana didn't survive the 80s, but under the circumstances I believe such speculation to be pointless. We made mistakes in our enthusiasm and zeal, and frankly, times are quite different today than they were thirty-six years ago when OIM was founded, or even twenty-some years ago when it died.

One word that I would leave with you is participation. It's always easy to sit back and criticize what our organizations are doing. They never do what I want, right? But what takes real courage is standing up and working to change the things we don't like. Join in and make these organizations truly yours. Speak up and don't be afraid to let your voice be heard. You may not always get what you want, but at least you'll be in there trying and hearing the reasons others give for not supporting your ideas. Or maybe, wonder of wonders, they will support your ideas.

Montana's 2015 Gay Pride event will be held in Missoula this month. Get out now and help with the planning, organizing and work--and believe me there will be a lot of work that needs to be done. Make it an event that you, I, Missoula and all of Montana can truly hold as our own. Make it an event filled with pride!
Your grandpa,
Bryan D. Spellman

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Adventures in Geocaching, March 18th, 2015

Dayton Creek flowing toward Flathead Lake
Dayton, Montana

Wednesday, March 18th, I packed my gear in the car and headed to Kalispell.  It was time for a Costco Run, and quite frankly, both Kevin and I prefer the Costco in Kalispell to the one in Missoula.  Since they're both around 85 miles away, the travel itself becomes six of one, etc.   The main difference in the trip is the scenery.  The way we drive to Kalispell, we turn onto US Highway 93 at the Ktunaxa (Kootenai) village of Elmo on the western shore of Flathead Lake, and for the next twenty-six miles, we are driving along the lakeside, or as close to the lakeside as the highway allows.  There are lots of vantage points and I, for one, never get tired of seeing the lake.  Of course, if I'm traveling alone, I always make sure to have my GPS unit along with the intent of grabbing any stray geocaches I have yet to find.  

To get to Elmo, we take Montana Highway 28 north and east from Plains, a distance of forty-eight miles with eighteen caches hidden along the way.  Last year I found all  eighteen, and this year I needed to expand my search radius.  There are some thirty-plus caches hidden along US 93 between Elmo and Kalispell, depending on how close to the highway you want to stay, lots more if you're willing to get off the road, and lists 391 caches hidden within ten miles of the 59901 (Kalispell) zip code.  If you increase your search parameters to 30 miles, the most allowed these days on the hobby's website, you get 852 caches.  That's enough to keep anyone going for a day or three.

Just a few of the sailboats waiting for summer
Dayton, Montana

I understand there is a way to load a group of caches at once into my Garmin Montana 650t, but I haven't figured that out.  I have to load them one by one, so I usually don't add more than 30 at a time, one by one.  To prepare for today's trip, I loaded all the caches immediately adjacent to US 93 between Elmo and just south of Kalispell.  I also loaded in the caches around a couple of places I wanted to check out in the Kalispell area, namely Foy's Lake and Lonepine State Park, two recreational areas I've never visited.  Finally, I found a trail of ten caches just a couple miles north of Costco, and thought that would be a good chance to get some physical exercise to complement the mental exercise involved in geocaching.

Just north of the town of Elmo is a topographical formation known as Chief Cliff.  Legend says that Chief Eneas, in an effort to remind the Ktunaxa people of the importance of heeding their elders, sacrificed himself by riding his horse off the cliff.  Polson author Maggie Plummer writes about it on the Make It Missoula website.  The first cache on my list for the day was The Legend of Chief Cliff, a traditional cache hidden off the highway just north of Elmo.

Empty slips waiting for the sailboats
Dayton, Montana

The next town north of Elmo is Dayton, home to Mission Mountain Winery, one of western Montana's premier vintners.  I'd never had a reason (as if I needed one) to get off the highway at Dayton, but two geocaches hidden nearby brought me to a stop.  The first, a cache hidden on private property near the banks of Dayton Creek promised a challenge as the gate to the property was closed and a For Sale sign made me wonder if the cache would even be available.  But sure enough, I crawled through the gate and Garmin led me directly to the cache, hidden in a way I had never before seen, and frankly thought was against the rules.  Back at the car, I turned toward the town itself and looked for the cache hidden where Dayton Creek enters the waters of the lake.  This one proved more difficult, and in fact completely stumped me, so I grabbed the camera and got some shots of the creek, the bay, and Dayton itself.  As you can see, the weather wasn't very camera friendly, and the colors were pretty muddy.  You can't have everything, I guess.  As it turned out, of the sixteen photos I took on the trip, all were taken either in Dayton or at the West Shore campground in the state park up the road.

Further north I picked up the caches named "Another Smiley Along the Way" and "Sqelixw," the latter being the Salish word for Salish, and the cache being located at the sign marking the reservation boundary.  I stopped at Rollins to look for "Osprey Nest," and while I found the nest itself--it's hard to miss an osprey nest--the cache itself proved more elusive.  But my body was beginning to let me know that I needed to find a public facility soon, and that made me so uncomfortable that I thought only of getting to Kalispell and finding a restroom and lunch.  I therefore drove right past the next to caches hidden along the way, including the one at my childhood playground, the Flathead Lake United Methodist Campground.

Goose Island
West Shore Unit, Flathead Lake State Park

But north of the church camp you'll find one of the six units of Flathead Lake State Park, and state parks, especially those with campgrounds, always have outhouses, right?  As it turns out, the West Shore unit is the only Flathead Lake State Park campground I hadn't previously visited.  I've even been to the large island park, Wild Horse Island, which is accessible only by boat.  Why I'd never stopped at West Shore is a question I can't answer.  Perhaps because of its proximity to the church camp, or the fact that I've been to Frank Bird Linderman's home just north of the campground.  But nature was calling, and that meant stopping at the park where, coincidentally, there are two geocaches hidden.  Having relieved the tension in my body, I set out to find those two caches, and was successful with both, but I left the car parked and walked first to one, then to the second, and found the hike a bit tiring.  Not sure what that was all about, but let's just say that the trail wasn't flat, and there was some scrambling involved--an activity that my glasses tend to impede.  By the way, should I be concerned that the state's own website for the park, linked above, starts out with a warning of all the things not to do while visiting the park and includes a badly pixellated photo of Goose Island?  At least I think it's Goose Island.  Hard to say from the picture.

Deep Bay 7/15 was an easy find, but Don't Get... was not so easy.  It was another cache that involved a scramble, and as I noted on my posted log, the rocks were both wet and mossy.  My vertigo really was acting up and the GPS unit was going crazy, probably because the rocks were scrambling the signal.  The hint for the cache is "You'll know it when you see it, maybe..." and sure enough, when I saw it, I knew immediately.  One of the secrets of finding geocaches is to look for something out of place.  A wire hanging out of a hole in a rock, for instance, or a piece of wood where there just isn't any other wood.  I won't say what was out of place here, but when I spotted it, I knew.

I also knew that I was getting very hungry.  Geocaching always takes longer than I expect, and lunch was now overdue and I still wasn't in Kalispell.  I had been craving KFC (and don't tell me how bad that is for me), so I was dead set on having a two-piece lunch in town.  That meant driving past several other restaurants but I was determined!

The next cache north of Don't Get... is named "Tarantula."  According to my GPS, finding it would involve a major climb up a rock face, or coming around the back side which still involved quite a climb.  My vertigo, not yet calmed from Don't Get... really kicked in here, and to make matters worse, I couldn't find the cache.  The GPS unit was again acting up--probably because of all the rocks, so I finally gave up, eased my way back down the cliff, and drove off.  I drove through the town of Lakeside, passing up at least three restaurants and at least three geocaches, but stopped at the fruit stand that sells cherries in season and picked up the cache there.  I also grabbed the cache further north, another one named Osprey Nest.  In this case, however, while I found the cache, I didn't see anything like a nest.

My faithful GeoSaab at West Shore State Park
Flathead Lake, Montana

Driving through Somers, and passing the caches there, I did stop at the overlook just north of town, but was completely unsuccessful at finding the cache hidden there.  Lunch was definitely overdue, and my system was telling me EAT!  NOW!  So I drove on into town and pulled into the KFC parking lot.  Of my two piece lunch, one piece was so small it was barely larger than my thumb, and the larger piece, a breast, tasted as if it had been fried in months old oil.  I couldn't finish it.  The mashed potatoes, or what they call mashed potatoes, were tasteless and the biscuit was old and stale.  The iced tea tasted stale as well.  The cole slaw was good, but did I really just pay $10 for three sporks of cole slaw?  If the Kalispell KFC was my only exposure to the franchise, I'd never go back.

The weather was getting worse by the minute, so I did my shopping and avoided the area caches I'd planned to find.  Save them for a sunnier day.  And since I bought frozen goods at Costco, that meant driving home directly to keep things from thawing out along the way.  Yes, I'd brought my camera, my camera bag with extra lenses, my tripod, my GPS, my Montana Atlas.  But no, I had not brought a cooler for the frozen food.  Oh well, you can't have everything.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adventures in Geocaching, March 12th, 2015

The Thompson River
Taken March 12th, 2015
Sanders County, Montana

As my regular readers know, I've been geocaching on and off since 2006 when I bought my first Garmin eTrex Legend in Crescent City, California with the idea of it letting me know how far I was walking when hiking on the trails in the various components of Redwood National and State Parks.  Of course I quickly learned that the redwood canopy was too thick for satellite signals to penetrate.  Oh well.  Let's try something different, so remembering that Mr. Grubstake had displayed geocaching items at his restaurant high above Hamilton, Montana, I looked into a new (to me) activity.  At the time, there were over 1500 caches hidden within a 100 mile radius of my house in Smith River, California. When you consider that the house sits three miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, you have to figure that most of those caches are going to be hidden somewhere on land, that is in half that radius.  That was back in 2006.  Today, the geocaching web site doesn't allow you to search more than 30 miles from any given zip code, and there are 563 caches within 30 miles of Smith River.  Back in 2006, I was able to find 37 caches, 20 of them in October alone.  In 2007, I expanded my range outside of California and Oregon, and found 121 caches throughout the Northwest.  I took my eTrex Legend with me on the 6,000 Sunday Drive, and found caches in South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee as well.

Old Structure on the Little Thompson River Road
Sanders County, Montana

From 2008 through 2013, I found a grand total of 18, although four of those were in Florida, the furthest east and south I have been with my passtime.  But while I was not out geocaching, lots of other folk were.  Where there were barely 100 caches within 100 miles of my Missoula, Montana home, now there are thousands.  There are thousands within 100 miles of our home in Plains, and one way to get to know the area, is to go out hunting for them.  In 2014, I set myself the goal of reaching 300 lifetime finds before the end of the year.  By December 31st, I was well past that number, having found 149 caches during the course of the year, and I set a new goal:  500 total by year end 2015.

Winter weather is generally not conducive to searching for things in the woods, but I went out nonetheless and found 10 caches in January and 16 in February.  Then Winter left here in the Northwest, and March was very spring-like.  On March 12th, I set out with the idea of finding caches along a road I'd never traveled, the upper end of the ACM road  where Sanders, Flathead and Lincoln Counties meet.  A group of local geocachers going by the name Clark Fork Valley GeoCachers have placed a series of caches along the ACM road at roughly every 1/10 mile from where the road starts at MT 200 east of Thompson Falls to where it ends at US 2 east of Libby.  We're talking a 40 mile stretch of dirt road with almost 400 geocaches hidden along the way.  This has been my go-to path when I want to add a quick 10 or so finds to my list.

The ACM road was built by the Anaconda Mining Company back in the days when they were logging this area to supply support timbers for the mines in Butte.  There is a county road that parallels the ACM road just a few hundred feet away.  BUT, and it's a big but, there is a river that flows between the two:  the Thompson River.  Both roads run from MT 200 to US 2, and both are heavily salted with geocaches.  I've looked for only a few of the county road caches, but have hit the ACM road more heavily, and today I thought I'd go to the end.  The map made it look as if the ACM road skirted the southern bank of the Thompson Lakes, and I'd never been there, so why not.

Old Barn on the upper Thompson River
Flathead County, Montana

From our house, as the crow flies, it's just a couple miles to the Little Thompson River Pass Road, but it's a bit further by car.  Once on that road, it's an eighteen mile drive up and over the pass on a road that is mostly dirt, although this trip there were patches of snow and ice, and once I started down the western slope, there was a lot of rock that had fallen into the road bed.  I found myself twisting the steering wheel right, then left, then right, just to avoid the rocks.

Once down to the confluence of the Little Thompson and the Thompson, I turned north and headed toward my first cache of the day.  Kevin had bought me a new Garmin Montana 650t GPS unit for Christmas, and I was making the most of it.  For today's trip, I had programmed in some 70 caches along the last seven miles of the road.  The first was an easy find, as were the second, third, fourth, and so on.  It looked like it was going to be a great day, but then I got to number ten.  Nothing.  Couldn't find anything that looked right.  OK.  Spend some time, but then move on.  There are plenty more.  Number eleven started out elusive, but, ah, there it is!  Having found eleven, I walked back to where number ten was supposed to be, thinking that maybe approaching from a different angle would improve my chances.  Nope.  Still nothing at site ten.  And it started snowing.

Middle Thompson Lake looking North
Lincoln County, Montana

I decided to drive on to the end of the road, try to find a new cache hidden along US 2, then turn around and see what I could find on my way home.  The road dumped me out onto Highway 2 much sooner than I expected, but I turned left toward the West, and was quickly up to highway speed.  After fifty miles of dirt road, it felt good to be able to drive faster than 25 mph.  I passed Middle Thompson Lake and looked at my Garmin to find that the new cache I was seeking was still several miles ahead of me.  No, this was not what I was wanting.  I still had to get back home, and the fastest way meant backtracking on the dirt ACM road.  Otherwise, I would have to go all the way to Troy (63 miles), then south to Noxon (43 more miles), where I would still be 70 miles from home.  As an alternative, I could drive east to Kalispell (47 miles), which would put me 85 miles from home.  No, the 50 miles of dirt road seemed like a better option.

Realizing that somehow I had taken a turn off the ACM road, which is why I got to US 2 so quickly, I started looking for my original objective.  And sure enough, just between Middle Thompson Lake and Upper Thompson Lake was my road, and a geocache.  Found that one quickly (ACME 372 was its name), and just as quickly found ACME 371 and 370.  In fact, I found every cache through 364 and stopped along the way to take some pictures of the lake.  By this time it was getting late and I hadn't brought along any lunch.  It was time to stop looking for caches and head on home.

Middle Thompson Lake looking West
Lincoln County, Montana

No problems with the drive, and as I climbed the Little Thompson River Road, I met a road grader moving the rocks I had dodged earlier off the roadbed.  Didn't have to bob and weave so much, just inch my way past the grader, and from there on it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home.  All told I found twenty caches and had a great day out enjoying our beautiful northwestern Montana home.

Caches found:  ACME 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 311 (NOT 310), 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Alphabet 2006, W - Z

W is for Woodpile
Smith River, California

While this is the image used in my original book, I could not find it among my photographic files.  The picture above was scanned from the book, so there is no photographic information available.  That said...  For years, Mother would buy a cord or two of oak each fall which she would split and burn in the fireplace.  This is one of the remaining woodpiles in the back yard.

X is for Xanthophyll
Taken December 8th, 2006
Smith River, California
Nikon D80 DSLR, Sigma Lens set at 45 mm
ISO 200, f /5.6, 1/60 second

A yellow crystalline pigment, C40 H56 02, found in plants.  It is related to careotene and is the basis of the yellow seen in autumn leaves.

Y is for Yacht
Taken October 24th, 2006
Gold Beach, Oregon
Nikon Coolpix L3 Camera, Focal Length 19.2 mm
ISO 50, f /5.3, 1/250 second

This being a sea-side community, there's no end of boats in our harbors.  This particular boat, the Pola, is moored at the harbor in Gold Beach, Oregon.

Z is for Zither
Taken December 11th, 2006
Smith River, California
Nikon D80, Sigma Lens set at 18 mm
ISO 200, f /3.5, 1/60th second

This is actually an Appalachian Dulcimer, a true American folk instrument which was based on the German Zither.  Below I show it posed on a chair with an hand stitched back done by my mother, and finally laid on a hand-woven blanket I wove for my father in the colonial overshot pattern called "Methodist Wheels."  I like to think of my father as being one of those "Methodist Wheels."

 Taken December 11th, 2006
Smith River, California
Nikon D80 DSLR, Sigma Lens set at 18 mm
ISO 200, f /3.5, 1/60 second

Taken December 8th, 2006
Smith River, California
Nikon D80 DSLR, Sigma Lens set at 22 mm
ISO 400, f 6.3, 1/20 second